Healthcare Business News

CMS issues final round of health plan waivers

By Rich Daly
Posted: January 8, 2012 - 12:01 am ET

Health insurance policies covering about 3.3 million people may temporarily continue under the final round of CMS waivers for employer-sponsored plans that do not meet provisions of the 2010 healthcare law.

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The waivers, announced Friday on a CMS website, apply to health insurance policies—mostly for mini-med plans—offered to the workers of 1,231 employers.

The waiver policy, meant as a transition to the implementation of policies in 2014 that effectively will ban most mini-med policies, started in September 2010 offering one-year waivers from the coverage policies. The waivers cover plans that fall short of federal rules created by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act which set a minimum annual dollar limit on essential benefits that healthcare plans must provide in 2011, 2012 and 2013. The minimum limit is $750,000 in 2011, $1.25 million in 2012 and $2 million in 2013.

Starting in 2014, the law bars annual limits for essential benefits. However, the minimum limits are greater than the maximum benefits provided through mini-med plans, which typically are offered to low-wage, part-time or seasonal employees.

Following sustained criticisms from Republican critics of the healthcare law every month when the newest round of one-year waivers was announced, CMS officials announced in June 2011 that they would extend all current and future waivers through 2013.

An additional 97 employers that have received previous waivers chose not to seek extensions through 2013 for their plans covering about 600,000 workers, according to a CMS official.

The CMS denied 95 waiver requests in the latest round.

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